Arlene is involved with underworld types. Her society girl sister believes it is only innocent thrill seeking; her stepfather fears it may be more criminal than that. Kidnap and murder plots ensue.
Bette Davis ... Arlene Bradford
Donald Woods ... Tony Sterling
Margaret Lindsay ... Val Bradford
Lyle Talbot ... Spencer Carlton
Hugh Herbert ... Izzy Wright
Arthur Byron ... Everett Bradford
Robert Barrat ... Thorne
Henry O\'Neill ... Oren Porter
Irving Pichel ... Jake Bellow
Douglass Dumbrille ... Joshua Maynard (as Douglas Dumbrille)
Alan Hale ... Chief O\'Malley
Gordon Westcott ... Joe Bello
Charles C. Wilson ... Detective Sergeant O\'Hagen (as Charles Wilson)
Harold Minjir ... Archie Van Ness
FOG OVER FRISCO is getting some interesting comparisons to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, most notably his film PSYCHO. While it can be said that there are some similarities with the sisters where one of them winds up on the wrong side of the tracks and the other gets the unwanted role of having to find out what happened to her, this is where similarities end. Hitchcock wanted to shock the audiences with his story and led us to believe that Janet Leigh, already an established star, would survive the story to the last reel. Yes, there was the element of money her character had taken, the same way Davis\' character also gets involved in a plot to steal some securities (I think I have it right, I vaguely recall it being \"money in stock form\"), but in 1934 Davis was just one of many contract players wading through the mire of these quickies that Warner\'s was giving her. When her character meets her own fate in FOG OVER FRISCO, it\'s not a shock. It\'s actually closer to being expected: she\'s too crude during her short screen time and there is an uncomfortable scene at a dinner table that makes her character unlikeable.
Concealing the identity of the murderer also seems to be another point of comparison in between this movie and Hitchcock\'s classic. Again -- I believe this is an assumption: being a taut crime drama with a good (if clumsy) note of suspense, the need to leave the audience hanging is an old a trick as time itself. I doubt Hitchcock would have even learned about this movie since his inspiration was the book itself which was a loose account of the Ed Gein murders. If he did see this film, no one will ever know, but I personally believe Hitchcock did not use FOG OVER FRISCO even as a vague point of reference. Perhaps the fact that the movie looks different from a cinematic point of view -- it seems to be experimenting with how to transition from one scene to the next, something that only film noir, Orson Welles, and Hitchcock would engage in during the 1940s onwards. At least, it gave Margaret Lindsay a chance to carry the movie on her own since she tended to play the supporting role and would be Davis\' rival in JEZEBEL.
Wow, I am amazed that this film is so overlooked, especially considering the reputations of its director (Dieterle) and its star, Miss Bette Dave. Fog Over Frisco is probably forgotten because it had the misfortune of being released the same year as Bette\'s Academy-rocking star-turn as waitress Mildred in Of Human Bondage. Nevertheless, she is true to form in this early role. I enjoyed this film\'s fast past and lack of fluff. If you liked \"L.A. Confidential\" you will enjoy Fog Over Frisco\'s complicated plot and ambiguous characters. The plot structure was strangely reminiscent of \"Psycho\" -- except that Psycho was made twenty-six years later! Seems Hitchcock was not the first to shock his audience unexpectedly...
This is a great Warner\'s crime drama - not as well known as some of the others but deserves to be.
Bette Davis gives a power-house performance as the venal Arlene Bradford, the criminal step-daughter of a powerful banker. To me it proves how determined Miss Davis was to break the mould and to appear in roles she believed in and that would make her stand out.
Bette plays Arlene Bradford, who is secretly working for a criminal (Irving Pichel) who is involved in stolen bonds. Spencer Carlton (Lyle Talbot) a decent but weak employee at Bradfords bank is engaged to Arlene. It is he who is usually called on to dispose of the bonds - obviously he will lose his job if caught.
But Arlene is playing the sap for a sap and has no intention of marrying him. She is in love with someone else and is soon to receive the same callous treatment she dishes out to everyone else.
Arlene disappears just over halfway through the film and the film is then carried by the two lack-lustre leads. Margaret Lindsay as Val, the \"good\" sister (I have never really got her - but she was a serviceable leading lady for Warners in the 30s) and Donald Woods. The film loses a lot of the verve and excitement it had in the first half.
The supporting players are far more interesting - Irving Pichell as the owner of the nightclub, the wonderfully suave Douglas Dumbrille as the family lawyer. Robert Barret as Thorne, the butler is the most fascination - there is something about him - but you don\'t find out until the last five minutes.
Bette Davis\' role is eerily reminiscent of what happened to Thelma Todd only a year later. She even looks like her in this film.
Mysterious crime, unconventional way of solving it, witty dialog, fast paced events, car chasing, unexpected resolution... are we watching just another detective action film starring Mel Gibson? No, it is 1934 film Fog over Frisco. It is amazing how little has this type of film evolved in last 70 years or so. The only \"improvements\" we see in modern versions of action films are slimy kissing and love-making scenes, two dozen explosions and rolling stock of a smaller country destroyed. Oh, yeah, done to include something for everyone and to extend the film time to standard one and a half hour.
Well Fog over Frisco is what a good action film should look like. It is absolutely enough to have a bit more than a hour to tell everything. Of course, Dieterle could easily make a film a bit longer and the plot more understandable, but this amazing pace is what makes this film even more special. You are moving in the spiral of events so fast that it is necessary to see it twice to get everything straight.
But this is not all. We see some really exceptional acting here. Bette Davis makes from one seemingly tiny role more than some leading character actors did in the whole acting career. She is absolutely convincing as Arlene, a spoiled and bored rich girl and you can never see Bette in another film to be so beautiful, glamorous, amusing and enchanting. No wonder that most men in film really seem to be in love with her. Margaret Lindsay, who plays a real head role of her step-sister Val, isn\'t match for Ms. Davis, however she did her part correctly. Other notable performances include Donald Woods playing Tony and Hugh Herbert playing Izzy, who are convincing as a witty reporter - funny photographer pair.
This film is one of the most underestimated films in the whole history of Hollywood and is a must-see for 1930s film period.